Often credited as the first minimalists, the Shakers and their furniture have inspired countless modernist and contemporary designers all over the world. Yet with their presence confined to just a few sites in the United States, people rarely have the opportunity to experience Shaker objects in person and in context. Furnishing Utopia’s mission is to provide designers with direct exposure to original Shaker artifacts and demonstrate how the group’s ideas still prove influential.

In collaboration with the Hancock Shaker Village and the Mt. Lebanon Shaker Museum, a week-long workshop was conducted at two preserved Shaker sites, giving a group of 12 international designers access to an extensive archive of objects and engaging them in a dialog with the museum’s curators. Following the workshop, the designers were invited to produce designs that translate the ingenuity and aesthetics of Shaker objects into modern forms relevant to contemporary life.